Minister gives go-ahead for Shell to operate gas pipeline
The contentious Corrib gas pipeline has been given final approval by Energy Minister Alex White, nearly 20 years after gas was discovered off the west coast.
In a statement, Mr White confirmed he had given consent to Shell E&P to operate the natural gas project, which links the underwater gas facilities 83km off Mayo to an onshore refinery near Ballinaboy.
The development is now set to become operational subject to 20 conditions relating to "environmental management, operation control and monitoring".
The first gas could come ashore as early as today.
Shell E&P Ireland Ltd had applied for ministerial consent to run the pipeline and onshore terminal last August.
Mr White said the Corrib natural gas field will meet 42pc of all-island gas demand during its first two years of operation and will reduce the need to rely on imported gas.
"The recent Government White Paper on Energy, which I published on December 16, has set out a trajectory to a low-carbon economy by 2050," he said.
"However, this transition will take time, and fossil fuels will remain part of our energy mix for some years to come as we first eliminate the most polluting fossil fuels such as coal."
Shell E&P Ireland has described Corrib as the biggest energy infrastructure project ever undertaken in this country.
The company behind it racked up losses of more than €98m last year as it waited for the final permit to let it begin flowing gas at the site.
Gas was first expected to flow from the field by 2004, and the development is believed to have cost in the region of €3bn.
But the project has long been overshadowed by protests, with concerns raised over its impact on the landscape and local communities.
The field contains about one trillion cubic feet of gas. This compares with about 1.5 trillion at Kinsale Head.